Stage 4 cancer patient denied disability insurance
BATON ROUGE - Shelly Marmillion, a married mother of two, recently received a letter in the mail from Lincoln Financial Group stating that they would not be paying her long-term disability insurance policy since they claim her breast cancer in 2012 was a pre-existing condition.
In 2012, Marmillion had less than a one-percent chance of the cancer returning. She underwent a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, and had lymph nodes removed. She was cancer-free according to clear scans over the next five years.
The Marmillion family is no stranger to overcoming adversity. They moved from New Orleans to Baton Rouge after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Their home flooded four feet during the Great Flood of 2016, and now she's battling Stage 4 cancer.
In the beginning of 2018, Marmillion said she began developing some lower back pain at work.
"I attributed it to pulling a muscle on the job," Marmillion recalled.
When the pain didn't ease, Marmillion had more tests done.
"We did an MRI that revealed I had metastatic cancer in my spine," Marmillion said.
At the time of her diagnosis, Marmillion worked for Baton Rouge Orthopaedic Clinic. She was employed there doing her dream job. Working became impossible as the cancer ate through her spine leaving it "like Swiss cheese," she said. Emergency surgery was needed just so she could walk again. Marmillion tried to get paid through her company's long-term disability policy to cover her mounting medical expenses. Instead, she received shocking news.
"They are saying because I saw my oncologist for annual follow-up visits and was placed on a preventative medication called Tomoxifin to prevent cancer, they denied my long-term disability based on that," Marmillion said.
A letter from Lincoln Financial to Marmillion reads in part, "Your condition is pre-existing as defined by this policy... Therefore, you are not eligible to receive benefits, and we have denied your claim."
"Battling stage 4 cancer is stressful enough, but the financial aspect of dealing with all of this has been more stressful than the cancer itself," Marmillion said.
The words of denial by Lincoln Financial were devastating.
"It's certainly not easy, the stress of this, like I said, constant phone calls, people, we owe money for our bills and pleading with them, 'can you please hold off a couple of months' some are sympathetic, and some are not," Marmillion recalled as she fought back tears.
Marmillion is currently appealing the insurance company's decision but said as bill collectors come knocking, she wants others to know about what's happening to her. She's concerned that she isn't the only one battling insurance companies.
"There are days I don't feel well, that I'm uncomfortable," Marmillion said. "The stress of this adds to it, and I feel like it could be hindering my recovery and it's totally unnecessary. It doesn't have to be this way, and it shouldn't be."
A spokeswoman near Philadelphia released the following statement on behalf of Lincoln Financial:
"Lincoln Financial does not comment on ongoing claims. We are committed to providing a full and fair review of all claims, in accordance with the terms and conditions of a claimant's policy. All claimants have a right to file an appeal if he or she disagrees with our determination."
Currently, the Baton Rouge Orthopaedic Clinic said it is working with Marmillion in hopes of getting the insurance company to pay her disability coverage.
If you would like to help the Marmillion family, a go-fund-me account has been set up and can be accessed here.
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